The idea of doubt keeps popping up in my thoughts, prayers and conversations lately. I’m really into “knowing” things. Walking by faith is not one of my strong points. While I am not in the midst of a crisis of overall belief in God, I am often plagued with “littler” doubts about circumstances and purposes and vocations and relationships and finances and health and … so on. I’ve been working through some journals of Henri Nouwen, and I love his comments about the importance of dialogue and community in the midst of doubt. It’s definitely my natural tendency to withdraw from these practices when I am struggling or don’t understand what God is doing. I greatly appreciate the insights recorded by Nouwen here:
Today: feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. During a dialogue homily, two of the monks remarked in different ways that although Thomas did not believe in the resurrection of the Lord, he kept faithful to the community of the apostles. In that community the Lord appeared to him and strengthened his faith. I find this a very profound and consoling thought. In times of doubt or unbelief, the community can “carry you along,” so to speak; it can even offer on your behalf what you yourself overlook, and can be the context in which you may recognize the Lord again.
John Eudes remarked that Dydimus, the name of Thomas, means “twin,” as the Gospel says, and that the fathers had commented that all of us are “two people,” a doubting one and a believing one. We need the support and love of our brothers and sisters to prevent our doubting person from becoming the dominant and destroying our capacity for belief.
– Henri Nouwen “Spiritual Journals: Genesee Diary”
In pursuit of more information about doubt and Thomas, a superficial scan of the gospels brought me to John 14, where Thomas says “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” (vs. 6). Well. I think I just found my life verse! And like Caravaggio’s striking depiction I included earlier, the gospels recount Thomas’ cry of unbelief, needing to see and touch the wounds of Christ before believing the resurrection. There is a lesson here for me, even though my doubts are not centered around things like Christ’s death, wounds, resurrection, or the existence of God in the first place.
In these small daily doubts, I must keep asking: What does it mean to walk by faith and not by sight? I know it was Christ who said: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) This is the same thing he says to me. What is to believe God is working just when I can see that? Faith that God is working in circumstances I don’t understand means I might have to embrace things I don’t want to, to rejoice in days that aren’t at all what I would plan for them. But who am I to think I can decide where God works? I am of small account.
Godhead here in hiding, Whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
I am not like Thomas; wounds I cannot see
But can plainly call you Lord and God as he
This faith each day deeper be my holding of
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love
-St. Thomas Aquinas
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.